Fed is minimal? That’s what all the mean girls say!

Girl crying

Janis, one of the characters in Mean Girls, says:

There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.

There’s actually a third kind: those who see good stuff being done and harrass those who do it.

That’s what came to mind when I saw this mea culpa written by a midwifery student, desperately trying to survive in a profession dominated by lactivist bullies.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Lactivists subject one of their own to a re-education campaign.[/pullquote]

According to 19 year old Sophie, she had posted her support for the #FedIsBest campaign on her Instagram account:

Originally, I had understood that ‘Fed is Best’ was a concept about babies receiving correct nutrition and perhaps if you didn’t support the campaign, then you were implying you didn’t care about the feeding of babies.

That IS the concept of the Fed Is Best campaign. It rests on the premise that being fully fed with formula is much better, healthier, and safer for babies and mothers than starving on breastmilk. If you don’t support it, you care more about the promotion of breastfeeding than the promotion of infant and maternal health.

Poor Sophie didn’t realize that on Wednesday all the followers of the mean girls wear pink and she dared to wear a different color.

The mean girls subjected her to a re-education campaign and she is apologizing as frantically as she can:

Following my original post, some of my followers contacted me directly with links to articles and information which gave other viewpoints on #FedisBest. I am so grateful that these messages were sent to me with respect and kindness. I was not belittled, or sent hateful comments, even though I’m sure I offended many of my followers. A positive of this situation has shown me how social media can be used in a kind way – I have learnt so much, and if I hadn’t posted about the campaign, I would probably still be in my naïve bubble of confusion and misconceptions. I am the first to admit that as I am so new to midwifery, there are huge gaps in my knowledge and skills. I have so far to go, but we all must start somewhere. This is what my blog is about – sharing honestly about each step in my journey, whether it’s forwards or backwards.

Who was responsible for her re-education? Prof. Amy Brown, the Regina George of lactivism.

The article that really helped me learn was written by Professor Amy Brown; ‘Why Fed Will Never Be Best: The FIB Letting Our New Mothers Down’

Amy’s article also made me realise that at no other point in our lives do we accept fed as best, rather than an absolute minimum.

See? Fed is minimal! That’s what all the mean girls say and Sophie desperately wants to be part of the in crowd, not on the outside getting bullied by the mean girls. And if there is one thing that the mean girls are absolutely, positively sure of is that anyone outside their group deserves to be bullied.

Rosalind Wiseman, author of the book Queen Bees and Wannabees on which Mean Girls is loosely based had this to say on the topic of mean girls:

The hazing experience and then the subsequent participation in the group forces its members to maintain the status quo and traditions at all costs. It demands mindlessness and unquestioned loyalty, resulting in boring people who have little ability to think for themselves or have an opposing viewpoint from those who have the most social power.

Sadly, that seems to be true for lactation professionals. They demand mindless, unquestioned loyalty and bullying of anyone who disagrees.

And it’s hard to protect yourself. As Wiseman notes:

Sometimes bullies are your friends and very rarely do bullying prevention tips acknowledge this fact or what to do about it.

And poor Sophie is exquisitely anxious that her “friends” within the midwifery and lactation professions consider her one of the group.

She can’t prostrate herself enough!

Although I feel embarrassed about publicly sharing my misunderstandings and may have led to others unintentionally being misinformed too, I’ve learnt lots in a positive way, thanks to social media and my followers. I plan to do more reading of articles and research about infant feeding. I will also investigate what the organisation where I work does to support infant feeding and I’ve got Amy Brown’s ‘The Positive Breastfeeding Book’ on my must-read list!

Hopefully Regina George Amy Brown has been pacified.

But Sophie, if you read this, I want you to consider something else:

You should NEVER apologize for being compassionate! You should NEVER apologize for refusing to take part in bullying! You should NEVER apologize for thinking for yourself and reaching your own conclusions!

Only mean girls would expect that from you.

As someone who endured my share of hazing during medical training, I know how very, very hard it is to maintain compassion for patients within a system that encourages treating them shabbily. I don’t expect you to resist the pressure now; you have no choice but to go along to get along.

But be assured that your first impulse — to be kind and respectful toward women and babies suffering from pressure to breastfeed — was correct. Don’t let the mean girls bully the compassion out of you.